Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Foxworthy’

Brand New Heroes

December 18, 2013

Tuesday December 17th, 2013 – Island Lake, IL

I’m finding myself thoroughly enjoying my focused pursuit of improving the marketing aspect of my career, and I predict enormous improvement in 2014. I’ve got a whole new area on which to focus, and it’s one that has been painfully neglected over a long period of time. It won’t take a lot to show significant improvement, but I’m shooting a lot higher. I want to be one of the greats.

That means I need a whole new set of heroes to emulate. When I was focusing on comedy and little else, I studied as many of the greats as I could in that field. I had my personal favorites like Rodney Dangerfield and George Carlin, but even if I wasn’t a fan I’d study anyone that had had even minor success. I watched everyone I could, and learned a lot even from the less than stellar.

The same is going to be true of my pursuit of marketing excellence. I wouldn’t put Dane Cook in the top 500 of comedy acts I’d study. He doesn’t make me laugh in the least and never has, but his marketing prowess fascinates me. He came along at a time where he saw how to use internet tactics to garner a loyal rabid following. He’s a master marketer, and one of my new templates.

I’ve always loved Jeff Foxworthy personally, but his marketing prowess makes me admire him that much more. He’s always been razor sharp in that department, and I am going to revisit what he did to put himself over the top. I respect the guy onstage and off, and there are lessons for me in what he did. I’m studying attributes in people I’ve never really paid close attention to before.

Jay Conrad Levinson is the father of Guerrilla Marketing, and sadly he passed away recently. I was fortunate enough to meet him at my friend Steve Olsher’s “Internet Prophets” event not long ago. I got to spend a few minutes with Jay, and really enjoyed his demeanor. He was charismatic.

Dan Kennedy is another name in marketing gurus. So is Jay Abraham. There are others thicker than bugs on a trucker’s bumper all over the internet, but I’ll start with the top recognized names and work my down from there. I am soaking in all I can, and loading my gun with new bullets.

I’ve always been fascinated by master marketers and promoters, but from afar. Now I’m doing it from a much closer point of perspective, and hope to become one myself. Names 99.9% of the public has never heard of but still became multi millionaires such as E. Joseph Cossman, Melvin Powers, Joe Karbo and others are the ones I’m going to study and model. Those are my heroes.

It honestly doesn’t matter to me if I ever get famous. I’d love to be well known, but that’s not the same animal. Matt Groening of ‘The Simpsons’ is well known. The Unabomber is famous. It doesn’t always pay a dividend to be famous. Infamy is technically fame, but I want no part of it.

Gene Simmons of KISS has always fascinated me. His marketing acumen is off the charts, yet their music is iffy at best. I’ve never been a KISS fan, but I love how they have created a money machine and I’d like one too. It doesn’t have to be as big, but steady cash flow would be sweet.

There are many others I haven’t even heard of yet, but for now I have a giant pile of articles to read and digest, and PDF files I’ve been compiling on my computer for years. I’m going to dig in and get to work. A lot of people have a big head start on me, so I have some catching up to do.

Can you identify this person? It's ok if you can't, he can buy and sell you and me like railroads on a Monopoly board. He's done ok for himself.

Can you identify this person? It’s ok if you can’t, he can buy and sell you and me like railroads on a Monopoly board. He’s done more than ok for himself.

Here's another face you may not recognize, but Jay Conrad Levinson made a huge mark with his 'Guerrilla Marketing' brand. He was a giant in his field.

Here’s another face you may not recognize, but Jay Conrad Levinson made a huge mark with his ‘Guerrilla Marketing’ brand. He was a giant in his field, and his work will live on.

Melvin Powers started the Wilshire Book Company and made millions over a fabulous career in mail order. I bought books from him, and eventually came to know him personally. He's a very generous person and extremely successful, even though most people have never heard of him. www.mpowers.com

Melvin Powers started the Wilshire Book Company and made millions over a fabulous career in mail order. I bought books from him, and eventually came to know him personally. He’s a very generous person and extremely successful, even though most people have never heard of him. http://www.mpowers.com

Meeting Bob Uecker

September 22, 2013

Saturday September 21st, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

Anyone who knows me well knows how much I have always admired Bob Uecker. I think he’s one of the absolute funniest humans of our time or any other time, and his multi faceted career of long lasting duration is about as impressive as it gets. He has long surpassed entertainment and is now part of American pop culture. Who hasn’t heard of ‘Uecker seats’? It’s part of our lexicon.

For whatever reason, people like to ask comedians who they think is funny. I’ve gotten that for as long as I’ve been a comedian – and that’s a long time. I don’t know why that should matter to anyone, but apparently it does. I’m a fan of the business and a student of the game, so I like a lot of different people for different reasons and many of those people are not known to the masses.

Anyone not in the business wouldn’t care about those reasons, and I totally get it. It’s an inner circle thing, and nothing is more boring than listening to someone prattle on with shop talk when they’re not in the same business. What the masses always want to hear are names of the famous.

I’ve been very lucky in my time to have either worked or crossed paths with some of the most famous comedians of the modern era including Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Jeff Foxworthy, Drew Carey, Sam Kinison, Bill Hicks and that’s not nearly a full list.

I don’t say this to brag, but I’ve been around the block a few times and crossing paths with all kinds of people goes with the territory. I could throw out hundreds of names nobody would care about except me and the people themselves, but that doesn’t capture imagintion like fame does.

Everyone always wants to know “what they’re like”. They’re people, and people are people on all levels. Some are nicer than others, and depending on the day and time you meet them they’re exactly like people are. I’ve rarely been in awe of meeting anyone famous for that exact reason.

As a result, my meetings with celebrities have traditionally gone very smoothly. I’ve treated all of them like people, and that’s how they responded. Only a very few times have I ever been even the slightest bit star struck, and even then in the end it turned out well. Again, they’re just people.

The Holy Trinity of funny people on my personal hero list that I’ve always wanted to meet are (in no particular order) Rodney Dangerfield, George Carlin and Bob Uecker. I did get my chance to meet Rodney and George, and both were not only extremely warm and gracious but I also was able to make them laugh. The thrill of having that happen will stay with me the rest of my life.

Tomorrow, I am finally going to get my chance to meet Bob Uecker thanks to my friend Drew Olson. Drew was the Brewers beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel for years, and he’s said in the past he’d gladly make it happen. I’ve never liked asking for favors, but this time I did.

The last game of the season is tomorrow, and the Brewers are out of the playoff picture. I don’t like to bother people, but all I want is to shake Bob’s hand and tell him how much I admire what he has accomplished and what a fan I am of his work on so many levels. It would mean a lot, and if I would happen to be able to make him laugh even once it would make my year. Moments like this are what life is all about. I just hope I don’t stumble and stammer and make an ass of myself.

The great Bob Uecker. Thanks to my friend Drew Olson, I get to meet one of my all time heroes tomorrow!

The great Bob Uecker. One of the funniest humans or our time or any other time.

Thanks to my friend Drew Olson of 'The D-List' on ESPN 540 in Milwaukee, I get to meet one of my all time heroes!

Thanks to my friend Drew Olson of ‘The D-List’ on ESPN 540 in Milwaukee, I get to meet one of my all time heroes!

Redneck Reminder

May 30, 2013

Wednesday May 29th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   I was scouring my local thrift store today, looking for my instant retirement plan. I’m hoping to run across a severely underpriced bauble or trinket I can score for peanuts and resell for top buck on ‘Pawn Stars’ or ‘The Antique Road Show’ – but who isn’t?  Life is now a big scavenger hunt.

   We’ve all been relieved of whatever savings we may have had, and the economic collapse that we’re going through has made American Pickers of us all. Gas at $4.50 a gallon with no letup in sight has brought out the wheeler dealer in all of us. Between that and the lottery, we’re crossing our fingers we have a few shekels left for our old age so we don’t have to subsist on pet chow.

   It’s easy to spot the sharks in a thrift store, and we’re all doing the same thing. We’re all trying to outsmart everyone else and haul in something we can resell for a lot more. Sometimes it does happen, but not as much as everyone might think. Most of the junk in there is there for a reason.

   I highly doubt 2004 is going to come back any time soon, so why would I need an organizer or calendar even if it is only $1.99? And I think I’m up to my limit on VHS tapes too. I don’t know anyone who even has a player anymore, but I’m sure someone does. I have an 8 track machine.

   Vinyl records are allegedly making a comeback, so I’ve been stocking up on those of late. I’ve been able to get them between fifty cents and a buck on a consistent basis, and have put together a decent collection of mostly jazz, older country and obscure spoken word stuff I have seen listed on Ebay for significantly more. I have no idea who buys them, but I have a supply ready to sell.

   I used to focus on books and self help recordings, but not anymore. I’ve got enough material to last me six lifetimes plus a long prison term, but I don’t feel my life getting any better because of it. I picked most of it up for very low prices at the time, but now I wish I’d have that money back instead of piles of books and tapes I’ll never ever get to. My intentions were good, but that’s it.

   Good intentions mean nothing without action, and I’m trying to make something happen so I’m not still fishing for thrift store scraps years from now should I be lucky enough to live that long. I do admit I enjoy the treasure hunting aspect, but depending on it to pay my bills is not my desire.

   I received what I’m taking to be a message from the cosmos today when I ran across a copy of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You Might Be A Redneck If…” book. I hadn’t seen a copy in a while, but not a day goes by that I’m not aware of how I missed my shot to be part of that whole phenomenon.

   I can picture plain as day sitting across from Jeff at lunch and having him tell me how he came up with an idea he thought would make millions and how I laughed in his face and told him what an idiot he was and how it would never work. If I could live my life over again starting from any one point of reference, that would surely be it. I missed out on a huge opportunity, and I know it.

   Too late now. I looked at the credits in the book and didn’t see my name there, even though he listed some other comedians I know. I could have been there too, but I blew it. Kicking myself in the aspirations years later isn’t going to change the fact I missed the boat, but it does still sting.

   Will I ever get a chance that big again? Who can say? I’m thrilled for Jeff’s enormous success, as he was and is a wonderful guy. I give him mega kudos for a legendary idea. Not only that, he EXECUTED it to perfection.  And here I sit years later, wishing I had shut up and played along.

Jeff Foxworthy - a great guy with a great idea.

Jeff Foxworthy – a great guy with a great idea.

I was there when it started.

I was there when it started.

April Fuel

April 3, 2013

Monday April 1st, 2013 – Chicago, IL

   It’s April 1st already, and somehow I feel like I’m the fool. Time is flying faster than I can keep up with and the first quarter of 2013 is now part of history. Really? I’m still behind on having my computer Y2K proofed, and I have a calendar in my wallet from my insurance agent from 1994.

Where does the time go? Away. That’s all that really matters. I’m seeing how important it is to make productive use of every free second I can, and I severely regret all the time I’ve completely pissed away until now. It’s not a renewable resource, and when it’s gone it’s gone. It’s precious.

If there is reincarnation, I sure hope we get a chance to come back and live life with knowledge going in, rather than being the empty headed halfwits we are now. Having someone to show us a few secret tips would help, but I guess that’s what parents are for in theory. I missed that boat.

My grandfather was great, but he died when I was 18 – right when I needed those tips the most. I made some extremely stupid mistakes on my own, and have kept that up to some degree for the duration. It takes years to get out of bad decisions, and sometimes the damage can be permanent.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to come into the world with some preexisting smarts? Damn, I’d be a major player and a multimillionaire by now. Too much freedom can be a bad thing, but I am by far not the only one to have mangled potentially good situations. Life is a big blind crapshoot.

Tonight I hosted the Rising Star Showcase at Zanies in Chicago, and after the show I hung out with Bert Haas, Jimmy McHugh and Kevin Naughton. Bert is the booker of Zanies, and his wife Sally is a comedian. Jimmy and Kevin are comedians who’ve done it as long or longer than me.

Bert was telling us that he and Sally were having a heated discussion on what a comedian’s job focus is. Sally’s view – and the three of us readily agreed – was that it was to always be working to improve one’s act and to be a better performer. It made perfect sense to Jimmy, Kevin and me.

Bert told us we were all wrong, and said it boils down to two words – SELL TICKETS. That’s never what any true comedian wants to hear, but it is the truth. If we don’t sell tickets, what does it matter what our act is? We might as well be hobby comics, and unfortunately most of us are.

This is a cold hard concept, and one I haven’t been good at embracing. It’s also the exact cause of why I’m not getting the results I’d like and other people are. I’ve known Jimmy McHugh and Kevin Naughton for years, and I like them both as people and think they’re funny comedians too.

Unfortunately, all three of us are among the struggling when it comes to our business. Any one of us could go on national television tomorrow and at the very least not embarrass ourselves, but what is embarrassing is how we’re all living hand to mouth after all these years of paying dues.

Had any of us had the vision of selling tickets first, our lives would be completely different in a good way. We’d be free to work on our acts – even though that’s really never a priority with fans who come to see us. James Gregory knows it. Jeff Foxworthy too. It’s April, time to smarten up.

Astronomical Odds

January 24, 2013

Tuesday January 22nd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   This just in from our news desk– LIFE IS DIFFICULT! Oh, and in a related story – it’s not fair either. I didn’t happen to just stumble across these particular revelations today, but it’s becoming a lot clearer as I get older that anyone’s chances of hitting anything really big are extremely tiny.

I happen to know a lot of people who happen to be in the creative arts in one way or another. It doesn’t matter if it’s standup comedy, acting, radio, music, writing, professional wrestling or any other artistic pursuit – there are zero guarantees the best people in any of them will ever hit it big.

The term ‘hit it big’ can be defined differently depending on who is asked to define it, but I am referring to the biggest of the big – the ‘A’ listers. I’ve crossed paths with literally THOUSANDS of aspiring artists of all genres in my time, and only a handful have ever made it to that top level.

I’ve been doing standup comedy the longest, and the three names – wait, four that pop into my head of those who really hit it are Jeff Foxworthy, Drew Carey, Larry The Cable Guy and Frank Caliendo. I would say all those guys have household name recognition with the American public.

I have no personal issues with any of those four, and I’m not jealous of their enormous success. BUT…I would like to be able to figure out exactly why it was only them. No offense to anybody on the list, but other than Frank being able to impersonate the current celebrities of his day I have no idea why the other three have been able to climb so high while so many others are struggling.

Again, I like Jeff, Drew and ‘Larry’ (not the name I knew him as when I met him, but that’s his secret and I’ll respect it) very much as people, and I’m happy they hit pay dirt. But can’t there be at least a little pay dust left over for the thousands of others who have rolled their own life dice?

SO many examples come to mind of people in all genres who have slugged it out for years, and only had minimal success. My friend Mike Moran comes to mind. He wrestled professionally for years, and came up the ranks with numerous marquee names of that field like ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and Mankind. He had fun and made a living, but that’s about it. He’s not rich or famous.

That’s no insult to Mike either. He’s a great guy, and very good at what he does. He paid a big price to attain his skill level, and he’s one of the best in the world. But that doesn’t pay any of his bills, and he is just another name on a list. Stone Cold Steve Austin isn’t any better of a wrestler.

I had dinner tonight with my speaker friend Todd Hunt. Todd works harder than anyone I have ever met when it comes to marketing himself, and he makes a living speaking at corporate events all over North America. Todd and I knew another speaker named John Powers who passed away this week. John was a wonderful guy and very talented, and he was successful but not Zig Ziglar.

Being at the top of any field is just plain rare – and talent alone does not dictate who gets there and who doesn’t. A lot of it is luck, with a lot of other things mixed in too. The sooner one learns to accept that the less insane he or she will become trying to chase something that just isn’t to be.

Southern Comfort

October 2, 2012

Saturday September 29th, 2012 – Columbia, SC

   As I pulled into town this afternoon, it occurred to me I haven’t been to Columbia, SC in about twenty five years. That was a bit scary to think about, but it also brought back fun memories that are getting sweeter with time. There used to be a full time club in town called ‘The Punch Line’.

It was part of a chain of comedy clubs in the Southeast in the ‘80s with the same name. Atlanta was the home base, and that club launched some big people like Jeff Foxworthy, Pam Stone from “Coach”, James Gregory and quite a few others. That was one of the hottest rooms in the country for years, and during the big boom of the ‘80s they kept on opening clubs. I cut my teeth in them.

There was eventually three locations in Atlanta and also one each in Birmingham, Jacksonville, Mobile, Savannah, Charlotte, Greenville, Columbia and a few others that came and went before I could work there. They ran six nights a week, and I could earn a living while learning my craft.

Gary Kern and Kyle Nape invited me to work with them as an opening act. We’d often work as a three man team for several weeks in a row, and I had some of my most fun times on the road in those days. I don’t see newbies coming up today getting chances like that, and I really was lucky.

That’s a good thing too, because I sure wasn’t funny then. I had to do fifteen minutes a night as the opening act/host/emcee, and many nights I wondered if I’d be able to make it. I was far away from home for the first time, and that can be very intimidating. Gary and Kyle were very kind to show me the ropes, and that’s why I try to be so helpful with new comics today. I’ve been there.

I was SO stealing money back then. I was painfully inexperienced, and I wish I had a chance to personally apologize to all those paying customers who had to sit through my pathetic act during that period. It’s something every comedian has to endure, but it’s never pleasant as it happens.

The guy who performed tonight was a far cry from that kid who was here at The Punch Line all those years ago. I’m usually quite hard on myself, but I thought tonight’s show was one of a few I’ve ever done that I would consider to be five stars. It wasn’t a particularly great situation, but I thought I was able to handle myself exactly how I always dreamed I would. I have really grown.

There was of course a table of three drunken women close to the front, and I had to work them into the mix because they wouldn’t be quiet. I wasn’t angry, and I surely was not intimidated as I have been dealing with babbling boozers for decades now. I have finally reached maturity status.

But like all ripe fruit, there is a limited time of ripeness before it starts to rot. I don’t know how long that will be, but I do know that it’s inevitable. For now, I’m at my performing peak and I’m enjoying every second of it. This was a solid show tonight, and it took a lot of years to polish it.

It was the exact right mix of old and new material, pacing, crowd work and every other facet of the comedy craft I’ve been working on for so many years. I’ve got a horribly long drive ahead of me, but thinking of how far I’ve come as both a comedian and a person will help make it shorter.

Marketing Mistakes

April 20, 2010

Sunday April 18th, 2010 – Kenosha, WI

I’m still riding high from the shows this weekend, especially last night in Michigan. I’m very thankful for Jim McHugh including me on these shows, but I’m also angry at myself for being such a poor marketer for so long. I don’t know why that bothers me so much all of a sudden, but it totally does. I’ve screwed myself out of thousands of legitimate dollars.

There’s nothing illegal about selling merchandise after shows, and I have never tried to hide a penny of it from the IRS or anything like that. I report everything, and that way I’m able to sleep at night with a clear conscience. What’s keeping me awake is that I’ve been such a slacker in getting products made for sale. I can do a lot better and I intend to do it.

A CD or t-shirt is not necessarily the best product, but people expect it at the very least. What can I do to make either one of those stand out from everyone else’s? First off, I can package the CD to look like I have a record deal. My last one stood out and this new one does too, even though it’s not as colorful as the first. It looks like a professional product.

Having several available is also a good plan. One CD is hard enough to produce but two or three push it over the top. I’ll have at least two by this fall, and that will be a huge plus in establishing credibility. I also want to get some in stores and on websites that sell other comedy products. CDs are dying out, but something will replace them and I‘ll be ready.

A book of some sort would be great too. I remember Jeff Foxworthy’s first book about rednecks, and it was jokes with cartoons illustrating some of them. That’s simple enough to do, and I’ve got a nice “You Know You’ve Got Bad Luck When…” book ready to go.

This is the way I need to start thinking, and should have been doing it twenty years ago. I guess I thought about it a lot, I just never executed most of those thoughts. Now, it’s the perfect time to do it as everyone else seems to be scattering in every direction. I’m ready to do what I should have already been doing, and that’s making the most of what I’ve got.

‘Mr. Lucky’ is a hell of a comedy persona. Lots of people think they have bad luck and can totally relate to it. If I can capture the ‘something-est’ title of being THE one with the worst luck, I can start marketing that a lot better than I have been. It might not just be in a standup comedy arena either. There might be a comic strip in there to make it even better.

Whatever the case, I’m responsible for creating something to sell. I put together my act and have been selling that all over North America for over 25 years. That’s ok, but I made the mistake of thinking that was the only way to do it. I missed out on adding t-shirts, CD and DVDs, books and who knows what else I could have thought of to the mix. I blew it.

Most other comedians I know lost out as well. VERY few have the foresight and vision to create products beyond the actual act itself, but those that did have done very well on a financial basis. Jeff Foxworthy is one of them and I respect him totally, as I do others like James Gregory and even Larry The Cable Guy. They put the business into show business.

Group Dynamics

April 9, 2010

Thursday April 8th, 2010 – Winfield, IL

Every imbecile and their aunt’s grandma is trying to slap together a group of comedians these days, thinking it will be an automatic sell. It seems to be a Sam’s Club mentality of if something is sold in bulk for a special price, it’ll fly out the door. Not necessarily true.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the group theory, even though I’ve participated in several. The first one I can think of that got noticed was “The Kings of Comedy” which consisted of Bernie Mac, D.L. Hughley, Cedric The Entertainer and Steve Harvey. They made a big splash with a tour and a film and good for them for doing it. It was a successful concept.

Then, Jeff Foxworthy used the concept to do “The Blue Collar Comedy Tour” with Bill Engvall, Ron White and Larry The Cable Guy. Again, good for Jeff. He knew he’d have a completely different audience, and he was very successful. Then, as everything that works has to endure, the avalanche of imitators trying to scarf up the scraps started popping up.

I’ve seen all kinds of ‘tours’ pop up from “Four Funny Dads” to “Pretty Funny Women” to a cow barn of others that don’t really fit together. ‘Three Funny Norwegians With The Hiccups’ isn’t necessarily a drawing card, even though people are trying to use any bit of a gimmick they can. I’m not at all opposed to gimmicks, they just have to be marketed.

Joey O’Shey has created a group concept called “The Wise Guys Of Comedy” and I like it for many reasons. One, he understands MARKETING. That’s really what all this boils down to anyway. It’s now like a band, and bands present a whole new set of rules that we as individual comedians never had to deal with before. It now becomes a group dynamic.

With group dynamics come politics and hierarchy issues, and that’s why bands break up so often. It’s not easy working together under any circumstances, especially in a situation where democratic rule is supposed to take place. It’s just not realistic to expect everybody to agree on everything, and when they don’t there needs to be a final say as to what goes.

Jerry’s Kidders has stayed together because Jerry Agar is the final say. If we’re stuck on an issue, our rule is ‘Jerry plus one vote’ to make the decision. Jerry isn’t a dictator but he does have the ultimate final say, and we all agreed to that going in. I think that’s needed.

It’s exactly what didn’t happen with The Chicago Style Standups. That was a group that never did get the leadership situation straightened out and it’s barely limping along today. Jim McHugh got out to start his “Chicago Comedy All Stars”, and he’s the leader there. It works great because we all know it, and Jim’s a good leader. I work for him quite often.

Joey put this idea together but didn’t just sit there and wait for business to come to him. He went out and had posters made up and started selling the concept of three comedians a lot like The Rat Pack that could interact with both the crowd and each other, and sold it to places that don’t normally have comedy. That’s very smart, and I’m in. We had our debut tonight at a place called Caliendo’s in Winfield, IL and everyone who came out loved it.

Is this going to be the next big thing in comedy entertainment and take the whole world by storm? I don’t think anyone could predict that, even if it was. I don’t think it will be at all, but that’s ok. Just because we’re not selling out arenas doesn’t mean we’re a failure.

It’s a lot more than that. Besides marketing, it also boils down to who’s in the show and how are they used? Joey has been doing comedy for over twenty years and chose not only me but Bill Gorgo to be a part of this. Bill and I are not only experienced, we get along on many levels. Plus, neither one of us want to be in charge of this. This is all Joey’s baby.

We all agree Joey should be paid for doing that, and so far everything has fallen exactly into place with no glitches. This is almost like three musicians forming a little combo that plays out on weekends once in a while. We all have other projects, but this is a fun aside.

Actually, Joey is working to make this THE project, and I could see it happening as he‘s very good at marketing where Bill and I really aren‘t. I’ve got my own projects to tend to, and that takes enough of my time. Bill is a high school teacher so for him it’s extra money and a chance to hang with comics. The chemistry of the three of us fits together perfectly.

That’s why I see this working, but as a sleeper project. Joey has hand picked venues that have not done comedy before, but have facilities to do shows. Some might work great and others might flop horribly, but all of us have enough experience to know how to handle it.

We’ve all been around the block so nothing rattles us, and we’re going where everyone else isn’t. I’m sure word will get out eventually and other ‘groups’ might try to horn in on this, but that’s just part of business in general. Joey is on the ball and has been working to get the word out, so he’s got a head start on the latecomers. He out hustled a lot of people.

This is how the times have dictated how comedy evolves. I hear stories of how guys out east are doing shows in smaller towns for volunteer fire department fundraisers. That may sound hick and low end, but I also hear how much money comes through these venues for the comedians. It’s WAY worth their while, and bypasses the scum bag bookers as well.

The show tonight wasn’t a killer but it wasn’t a flop either. It was a first run for a show in a place that doesn’t normally have shows. The owners loved us and want us back to do another one in the summer. With some very minor adjustments, it could be a solid money maker for everyone involved. I was willing to do a trial run on a Thursday to experiment.

I still do shows with Jim McHugh and his Chicago Comedy All Stars and in fact I have two gigs booked next week in Michigan. I also am part of Jerry’s Kidders and would do a show with those guys in a second. It never hurts to have a chance to get work anywhere.

No matter what group calls or where any of this leads, I’m still in charge of my destiny. Ultimately, I want people to come out and see me. If I’m with a group it’s fun and usually financially beneficial, but in the long run I want to have fans that enjoy what I do and are there to see me specifically. Is that being a control freak? Maybe. But that’s what I want.

Gout And About

March 11, 2010

Wednesday March 10th, 2010 –

Chicago, IL

Apparently I have gout. Perfect! That’s exactly the kind of disease Mr. Lucky would get and actually I couldn’t be happier to hear it. For someone with zero health insurance, gout is sweet music to my ears compared to full blown major knee surgery and all that torture.

I talked to the doctor and after reviewing my x-rays she said after hearing a description of how the pain started and looking at the x-rays she came to the conclusion it’s probably an attack of gout and that’s what we’d address. An MRI is expensive and it cut me a huge break by not having to pay for it myself, because I can’t right now. This was great news.

Gout is a buildup of uric acid in the joints, and usually manifests itself in the big toe or even in the fingers. Sometimes it goes to the knees, and when it does it’s only one. This is going to be a lot easier to fix than ripped knee tendons, and I’m already feeling way better than I did even yesterday. I’ve known for a while my diet has been horrible. I deserved it.

Red meat is one of my favorite things on earth, especially bloody rare steak. I love steak and eggs for breakfast, and I’ve been known to have a steak for lunch too. Or dinner. Or a late night snack at a truck stop on the way home from a gig. Red, rare meat is delicious to me and always was. I’m surprised I didn’t get this before, and it’s probably not over yet.

There’s probably enough beef packed in my intestines to start my own cattle ranch. I’ve had small spurts of exercise and health in the last couple of years, but as a whole meat is a way of life in my world. I just love it and always have. Now I’m starting to pay the price.

This is a total wake up call. I’ve been hitting the snooze button for a few years now but I really need to get it in gear IMMEDIATELY. This is a warning signal for a lot of other things that could go wrong in a New York minute. My heart could pop like a zit walking up a flight of stairs, and unless I really start watching myself, I’m going to be a statistic.

The pain I felt was nothing less than excruciating with this. The doctor said that crystals form from the uric acid and cause pressure on whatever joint is near and I learned kidney stones are also a buildup of uric acid and those are also painful. Either way, I need to take the hint and cut WAY back on red meat and I totally will. I don’t want to feel this again.

Apparently, drinking alcohol can make gout flare up too. At least I don’t have to worry about that, and whatever red meat problems I’ll have later in life won’t be compounded a few more times with the havoc alcohol takes on a system. I made that choice correctly to not drink, and that’s one I’ve never regretted. At least I wasn’t a complete and total idiot.

I went to the Old Country Buffet today with Marc Schultz, comedian Tim Walkoe and a comedy magician named Dennis DeBondt who are all great guys. It was very enjoyable to sit and hear great showbiz stories and it didn’t bother me at all to stay away from red meat and eat plates of vegetables. I’ve had a lifetime of eating whatever I want, and it’s time to watch myself. I heard the warning. Gout is a funny word, but the pain it brought wasn’t.

This whole experience really lit a fire under me though. It’s all part of a collective good because that’s how I’m going to choose to accept it. I am going to take full responsibility for getting myself to this point and also full responsibility for getting myself out. If I don’t and my heart does explode, hopefully I‘ll still be able to inspire others to chase the dream.

What a difference a single year makes. Exactly one year ago today I was in Los Angeles filming my first national television spt on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. It’s a memory I’ll never forget, and in many ways it seems like six lifetimes ago. In other ways I feel like it was last week and I want to get out there and do a lot more of them. And I do.

What’s it going to take to make that happen? I wish I knew. The rules of show business have never been cut and dried, but they’re getting even harder to figure out as time passes and technology advances. What was standard procedure just a few years ago is obsolete.

Methods of contacting bookers have changed, as have the outlets for content. Cable TV used to be the goal for standups, like an HBO or Showtime special, but now the internet’s giant presence dwarfs all of that. Youtube is huge, but how can anyone turn a buck with it if it’s always free? These are all legitimate concerns that puzzle me on a consistent basis.

I loved the whole experience of being on The Late Late Show, and if I never get back to do it again, it was still a huge highlight of my life. Celia Joseph the talent coordinator was one of the sweetest people to work with I’ve ever met, as were the whole staff at the show including Craig Ferguson. I’m a big fan and respect his talent immensely. He’s a winner.

But I totally believe that I’m a winner too. I’m happy for Craig Ferguson and I hope I’ll get a lot more chances to interact with him as time goes on, but I have to take my chances and put myself in a position to do that. I haven’t been as good about that as I could have.

Another major mistake I’m making is not following up with Jeff Foxworthy’s help with his management company. I know I pissed off the lady I was supposed to contact, and that really scared me off but it was unintentional. I need to get in there and use that contact.

Jeff is a straight up great guy, and I know he was sincere by doing this favor for me. I’m not going to let a little faux pas keep me from the big time, and I need to go and reconnect with them immediately. I’m SO ready for this right now. I wasn’t sure if I was before, and it turns out I wasn’t, so I’m glad I waited. Now, I’m sure I am and it’s time to go grab it.

My birthday is coming up on Sunday, and I can’t stop it. I’ve had a lot more of them to ponder than I ever thought I would, and after all I’ve been through I really am lucky to be alive and somewhat coherent. A case of gout doesn’t scare me at all, especially after those horrible knee pains have gone away. There was a solution to the problem, and I found it.

Now it’s time to pull out all the stops and keep chasing whatever I’ve been doing for all these years. I can do lots of TV spots, but someone has to say yes, which means I have to keep asking. So I will. Gout won’t take me out of the game. In fact, it’ll bring me back.